Mary Beth Edelson explanation of her Story Boxes from an 8-page foldout brochure published in conjunction with “Giving Myself A FiveYear Retrospective,” A.I.R. Gallery, 1975. “I asked people at the exhibition to write their personal stories/myths on paper tablets and leave them for others to read.”
The recent death of artist Mary Beth Edelson in April calls attention not only to her importance as an artist, but also to the wide variety of groundbreaking achievements of the women’s art movement, and the many feminist artists who emerged in the 1970s. Edelson, was a central player who made her mark as an activist, documentarian, and foremost as a multi-faceted artist whose subject matter focused on the concerns of feminism.
In the 1970s newly liberated by the rise of conceptual art, Edelson was able to move freely between painting, collage, photography and performance. In her art Edelson sought to both raise the consciousness of women, and liberate them from a patriarchal system that had for so long kept women largely powerless. As a first generation feminist artist, Edelson stands alongside Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, art critic Lucy Lippard, and the many other women who opened the way to the greater diversity of today’s art world.
Gallery 98 has a large collection of art ephemera connected to the women’s art movement. Items by Mary Beth Edelson are connected to her 1970s exhibitions at A.I.R., the woman’s cooperative art gallery.
Starting in 1972 Edelson’s exhibitions regularly included Story Gathering Boxes in which the audience was asked to write personal stories on topics selected by Edelson. The stories were then left in boxes so they could be read by other gallery goers.
Mary Beth Edelson, Grapceva Cave Series: Memorial Pilgrimage/See for Yourself, card, A.I.R. Gallery, 1977. Front image: Neolithic Goddess cave at Hvar island, Jugoslavija near Jelsea.
Mary Beth Edelson’s performances often referenced ancient goddesses and were conceived as rituals that empowered women and helped them exorcize themselves from the domination of men.
Mary Beth Edelson, Dark Shelters/Light Natures, A.I.R. Gallery, 1979. Front image: Stone Speaks, Port Clyde, Maine, 1978.
Edelson was a multi-media artist, who worked in a wide variety of formats. In the 1970s she often staged ritual performances sometimes in front of audiences, but most often privately as subject matter for photographs.